Study Guide

Alan Breck Stewart in Kidnapped

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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Alan Breck Stewart

Alan is Davie's best buddy. He's the secondary character, the one who comes closest to competing with Davie's dominance of the plot. Alan is the necessary means by which Stevenson moves the plot from Davie: kidnapped victim to Davie: Highland adventurer. Alan's introduction changes the story from a private tale of hardship into a larger exploration of local customs, practices, and politics.

Plus, Kidnapped without Alan would be totally lacking in that bromantic vibe that gives the story so much of its emotional power. What would Batman be without Robin? Butch without Sundance? Sherlock Holmes without Watson?

We don't want to suggest that Alan is necessarily Robin, Sundance, or Watson in this scenario. Alan is the one who's been to war against the English, who manages to kill evil Covenant first mate Mr. Shuan, and who winds up training Davie to use a sword. Alan is kind of like Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi rolled into one: he can be kind of dumb and kind of vain, but he's still a mentor to Davie.

In fact, much as we love movie references here at Shmoop (and trust us, we really do), it's tough to find a model for the particular relationship between Alan and Davie. This isn't the traditional buddy flick, where two guys go from kind of hating each other to kind of loving each other. Nor is it the traditional master-student kind of movie, where one guy preaches wisdom and the other learns at his feet.

Alan is much more experienced than Davie, but he's also weirdly self-absorbed. Witness his totally stupid refusal to change out of the fine clothes that have been used to identify him in wanted posters because he's worried about how he'll look once he gets to France (19.15). Just as Davie is an unusual hero (with his anger-management issues and selfishness) Alan is not your typical teacher figure, filled as he is with childishness and silliness. Alan seems both admirable (with his bravery, courage, and loyalty) and foolish (with his obvious vanity and childlike innocence). Stevenson really does like his characters contradictory, doesn't he?

Highland Alan

In Davie's "Character Analysis," we mention that he's the perfect bridge between a nineteenth-century English audience and the relatively exotic setting of the eighteenth-century Scottish Highlands. But Davie's a totally untraveled kid of seventeen when Kidnapped begins. Davie needs his own guide to serve as a bridge between his sheltered Lowland life and his new, rough-and-tumble Highland adventures. That person is Alan Breck Stewart.

Alan has many of the traits that Davie associates with Highland culture – fanatical loyalty to his clan (the Stewarts), participation in the Jacobite rebellions (see our "Detailed Summary" of Chapter 9), and a thorough knowledge of all the different Highland families and their alliances. But he's relatively open-minded about Davie's different politics. Even though Davie is a member of the enemy party, Alan can overlook this out of respect for Davie as a person. He tells Davie, "ye're a Whig, but ye're a gentleman" (12.31). Considering how much heat there is between Republicans and Democrats in American politics, we have to respect Alan's bipartisanship.

Without Alan there to vouch for Davie, he would certainly never have gotten the assistance of Cluny Macpherson or Duncan Dhu Maccoll. Even more fundamentally, all the Highlanders they meet speak Gaelic, a Celtic language. Davie speaks only Scots, which is related to English. It's thanks to Alan's intervention that so much of the dialogue these men speak is comprehensible to Davie and, by extension, to us, the readers. Take for example Alan and Davie's meeting with John Breck, when Davie remarks:

Although [John Breck's] English was very bad and broken, yet Alan (according to his very handsome use, whenever I was by) would suffer him to speak no Gaelic (21.23).

This point about language use is an indication of Alan's fundamental generosity toward and friendship for Davie, and of his willingness to compromise his Highland practices to help out his Lowland buddy. Alan isn't just a cool guy to have around; he makes Davie's travels possible.

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